Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Raise cap: Allstream CEO

Suggests higher limit on extra data charges

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A $50 cap on extra wireless data charges, such as roaming fees, may not be high enough and could end up inconveniencing consumers, MTS Allstream CEO Pierre Blouin said Thursday.

A cap of $200 to $250 may be more in line to prevent customers from losing service, Blouin said in an interview after a presentation to investors.

A $50 cap can kick in sooner than anticipated in some countries, he added.

"We would have to stop service to a whole lot of customers, which would create quite a bit of unsatisfaction, in my opinion," he said.

The $50 spending limit on extra wireless data charges is one of several ideas on the table as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission holds hearings on a national wireless code of conduct.

"We think it should be a bit higher based on the experience we have had with our customers," Blouin said.

The Winnipeg-based telecom company will comment on the proposed wireless code at CRTC hearings on Friday.

Consumers are usually notified of how many megabytes of data they have used via text message, often making it difficult to understand the additional fees they will see on their monthly bills.

For example, 10 megabytes of data would allow a cellphone user to download two songs, do some emailing and pull up a couple of web pages, while 50 megabytes of data would allow customers to view about 50 maps, 200 web pages, 1,000 emails or more than 5,000 tweets.

Some countries do not immediately provide real-time data usage, Blouin said, further complicating a low cap.

Rogers and Telus have already told the CRTC during the hearings this week to scrap the $50 cap, saying it would be too disruptive to service.

Under the draft code, service providers would have to stop all services that can cause consumers to have additional fees added once the total amount of extra fees reaches an amount set by the consumer, or in the absence of an amount set by the consumer, $50.

MTS Allstream will comply with the amount the CRTC sets, Blouin said.

"I think the issue that we have to figure out is what is the right amount," he said after the company outlined growth for 2013.

For fiscal 2013, MTS Allstream expects more growth from its wireless, Internet and Internet protocol TV services to consumers, and from its high-speed data networks in its business markets.

The company's Allstream business division is undergoing a strategic review, which could result in the sale of the division.

The Allstream division provides services to corporate, institutional and government customers across Canada.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 B8

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